May 01, 2021

Yearning for the Bosphorus

Yearning for the Bosphorus
Drawing of the Hagia Sophia by Wilhelm Salzenberg.

In May 1821, Tsar Alexander had a decision to make.

Seven years had passed since a coalition led by the Russian tsar had defeated Napoleon and Russian troops had triumphantly entered Paris, and Alexander was still one of the most influential and admired monarchs in Europe. Together with Austrian Foreign Minister Klemens von Metternich, Alexander had also been behind the idea of creating an international body to prevent further revolutions, coups, and political turmoil; resolve disagreements among European heads of state; and preserve legitimate monarchies across Europe.

The power of these monarchs was legitimate, in Alexander’s eyes, because it was derived from God, rather than their subjects, which is why the body he and Metternich established was named the Holy Alliance. It was decided that the sovereigns or their representatives would meet regularly to make collective decisions and, when needed, help one another suppress revolution.

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